Tag Archives | Brain

Did RFK Steal John F. Kennedy’s Brain?

jfkThe New York Post reports on one of the world’s most sought-after missing brains:

John F. Kennedy’s noodle didn’t get buried with him. “Not all the evidence from the assassination is at the National Archives. One unique, macabre item from the collection is missing — President Kennedy’s brain,” writes James Swanson.

During JFK’s autopsy at Bethesda Naval Hospital, the brain was placed in a stainless-steel container with a screw-top lid. “For a time, the steel container was stored in a file cabinet in the office of the Secret Service,” writes Swanson.

The brain was later taken to the National Archives, where it was “placed in a secure room designated for the use of JFK’s devoted former secretary…In October 1966, it was discovered that the brain, the tissue slides and other autopsy materials were missing — and they have never been seen since.”

An investigation ordered by then-Attorney General Ramsey Clark failed to recover the missing brain — which remains unaccounted for today.

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Is Hurricane Katrina Responsible for Brain-Eating Amoeba in Louisana’s Water Supply?

Picture: National Geographic (C)

Picture: National Geographic (C)

Almost a decade later, and we’re still seeing the impact of Hurricane Katrina. File this one under “Nightmare Fuel.” (By the way, the amoeba really does look like a scary clown face. Here’s where I found the image.)

Via National Geographic.

The deadly brain-eating amoeba that recently killed a four-year-old Louisiana boy may be linked to unsafe water conditions created by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, experts say.

The boy, Drake Smith Jr., died from a rare but deadly swelling of the brain caused by Naegleria fowleri, a species of single-celled organism known as an amoeba.

The child was playing on a backyard Slip ‘n Slide in St. Bernard Parish, near New Orleans, and was apparently infected by amoebae present in the water in early August. About two days later, he was dead.

For N. fowleri to gain access to the brain, it must go up a person’s nose and climb the olfactory nerve.

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Scientists Grow Pea-Sized Human Brains In Lab

pea-sized human brain

How long do we have until the creation of the “pea people”? The BBC reports:

Miniature “human brains” have been grown in a lab by scientists at Institute of Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences.

The pea-sized structures reached the same level of development as in a nine-week-old foetus, but are incapable of thought. The study has already been used to gain insight into rare diseases.

The scientists used either embryonic stem cells or adult skin cells to produce the part of an embryo that develops into the brain and spinal cord – the neuroectoderm. The cells were able to grow and organise themselves into separate regions of the brain, such as the cerebral cortex, the retina, and, rarely, an early hippocampus.

The “mini-brains” have survived for nearly a year, but did not grow any larger. There is no blood supply, just brain tissue, so nutrients and oxygen cannot penetrate into the middle of the brain-like structure.

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Norwegian Scientists Say Psychedelic Drugs Linked To Mental Health Benefits

psychedelic drugsHave you had your dose for maintenance today? Via Healthline:

Debunking decades of myths, new research says psychedelics are not linked to mental illness and may in fact have positive residual effects on users.

According to a new study published PLOS One, there is no link between the use of LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, and peyote and a range of mental health problems. In fact, psychedelic use is associated with a lower risk of mental health problems like psychosis, anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and general psychological distress.

Researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s Department of Neuroscience examined data on more than 130,000 Americans in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

They found that people who used psilocybin or mescaline throughout their lives, as well as people who used LSD in the past year, had lower rates of serious psychological distress, outpatient mental health treatment, and prescriptions for psychiatric medications.

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How The Human Brain Creates Consciousness

optimized_brainMichael Graziano, professor of neuroscience at Princeton University and author of Consciousness and the Social Brain, thinks neuroscience has discovered how consciousness comes about. He explains at Aeon:

Scientific talks can get a little dry, so I try to mix it up. I take out my giant hairy orangutan puppet, do some ventriloquism and quickly become entangled in an argument. I’ll be explaining my theory about how the brain — a biological machine — generates consciousness. Kevin, the orangutan, starts heckling me. ‘Yeah, well, I don’t have a brain. But I’m still conscious. What does that do to your theory?’

Kevin is the perfect introduction. Intellectually, nobody is fooled: we all know that there’s nothing inside. But everyone in the audience experiences an illusion of sentience emanating from his hairy head. The effect is automatic: being social animals, we project awareness onto the puppet. Indeed, part of the fun of ventriloquism isexperiencing the illusion while knowing, on an intellectual level, that it isn’t real.

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Two Lectures and One Interview: Eric R. Kandel on learning, memory, and individuality; Elon Musk on the Future of Energy and Transport; and Ladar Levison on Lavabit

via chycho

Two lectures and one interview well worth the watch:


I. Eric R. Kandel: The Molecular Biology of Memory Storage and the Biological Basis of Individuality
In my opinion and those of many others, the root cause of our society’s ills is how we deal with education, and the following lecture by Eric Kandel emphasizes this point. The argument is made that evolving, learning, memory; our humanity should be looked upon in a holistic manner. That our genes do not necessarily decide who we become; our culture, our methods of learning and teaching, our setting is what decides our individuality, and we, in large part, are in control of our future.


II. Elon Musk: the Future of Energy & Transport
Tesla Motors and Elon Musk have been all the rage lately, and rightfully so considering Tesla just blew away their quarterly earnings and Musk just revealed details of Hyperloop (pdf), a “hypothetical mode of high-speed transportation” which he has proposed.… Read the rest

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Human Cells Added To Their Brains Make Mice Smarter

human cells

Once someone lets them loose into a sewer and they breed freely, we’re in trouble. Scientific American writes:

In spring a band of brainy rodents made headlines for zipping through mazes with savvy navigation and mastering memory tricks. Scientists credited the impressive intellectual feats to human cells transplanted into their brains shortly after birth.

The mice benefited from human stem cells called glial progenitors, immature cells poised to become astrocytes and other glia cells, the supposed support cells of the brain.

Studies since then have revealed how extensively astrocytes interact with neurons, even coordinating their activity in some cases.

Our astrocytes are enormous compared with the astrocytes of other animals—20 times larger than rodent astrocytes—and they make contact with millions of neurons apiece. Neurons, on the other hand, are nearly identical in all mammals, from rodents to great apes like us. Such clues suggest astrocytes could be evolutionary contributors to our outsized intellect.

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Pim Van Lommel On Near Death Experiences And Non-Local Consciousness

I remain somewhat skeptical that near death experiences (NDE) involve a different plane of perception, but Pim van Lommel is far closer to convincing me than Proof of Heaven. Inspired by the transformative encounters described by his patients, the Dutch cardiologist has interviewed hundreds of people who have had NDEs and argues that they are “real”, cannot be dismissed as tricks of memory or the oxygen-deprived mind, and are suggestive of consciousness existing outside of the brain:

I grew up in an academic environment in which i had been taught that there was a reductionist and literalist explanation for everything, that it was obvious that consciousness was a product of a functioning brain. But the phenomenon of near death experiences raised a number of fundamental questions. I was unable to accept most of the answers to these questions because they seemed incomplete, incorrect, or unfounded.

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Meditation: Effects on Emotion Shown to Persist

via Psych Central Meditation 2

Meditation affects a person’s brain function long after the act of meditation is over, according to new research.

“This is the first time meditation training has been shown to affect emotional processing in the brain outside of a meditative state,” said Gaelle Desbordes, Ph.D., a research fellow at the Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital and at the Boston University Center for Computational Neuroscience and Neural Technology.

“Overall, these results are consistent with the overarching hypothesis that meditation may result in enduring, beneficial changes in brain function, especially in the area of emotional processing.”

The researchers began the study with the hypothesis that meditation can help control emotional responses.

During meditation, a part of the brain called the amygdala (known for the processing of emotional stimuli) showed decreased activity. However, when the participants were shown images of other people that were either good, bad, or neutral for a practice known as “compassion meditation,” the amygdala was exceptionally responsive.

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What It’s Like To Live As A Dead Person

cotard's syndrome

From New Scientist, what it’s like to live with the constant, crushing realization that you are dead:

Nine years ago, Graham woke up and discovered he was dead. He was in the grip of Cotard’s syndrome. People with this rare condition believe that they, or parts of their body, no longer exist.

For Graham, it was his brain that was dead, and he believed that he had killed it. Suffering from severe depression, he had tried to commit suicide by taking an electrical appliance with him into the bath.

“When I was in hospital I kept on telling them that the tablets weren’t going to do me any good ’cause my brain was dead. I lost my sense of smell and taste. I didn’t need to eat, or speak, or do anything…everything was meaningless.”

Neurologist Adam Zeman said, “He felt he was in a limbo state caught between life and death.”

Some people with Cotard’s have reportedly died of starvation, believing they no longer needed to eat.

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